Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cookware.com - Nesco 6-Quart Slow Cooker / Roaster Oven (Review)

It's here! This lovely Nesco Professional 6 Qt. Slow Cooker / Roaster Oven with Non-Stick Cookwell in Stainless Steel (Model 4816-25-30PR) is sitting on my kitchen counter at this very moment, and I can't wait to try it!  Thanks again to Cookware.com for the opportunity.  The ordering process was a breeze, and I appreciate the confirmation email messages that kept me informed of my order status and tracking information.

In order to write a thorough review, which will take some time, my plan is to write as I go; I'll post the review when it's finished.  So these are my initial observations after unpacking and setting up the slow cooker:
  • The heatwell (base) needs to be "smoked out" for an hour or so before its initial use, which was something new to me.  It has to be done in a well-ventilated area, so I used our covered porch.  There wasn't that much smoke, but I wouldn't have wanted to do it indoors!
  • This unit, because it has a non-stick carbon steel cookwell (insert) is lighter than my older slow cookers, which have porcelain inserts.  It also tends to slide around on the counter fairly easily, so I'll set the feet on silicone trivets.
  • The non-stick cookwell is dishwasher-safe (yay!).  I was surprised to read that the glass cover is not dishwasher-safe.  The cover has two small vent holes, which also distinguish it from the slow cookers I've used.
  • One of the features I was seeking in a slow cooker was stovetop-safety.  It never made sense to me to wash a separate pan from browning meat for the slow cooker.  While this non-stick cookwell is not stovetop-safe, meats can be seared in it by using the heat from the roaster oven.  Even better!
  • The instruction booklet includes guidelines for using the unit to slow cook, roast, bake, and steam foods.  It also includes some recipes.  Is it really possible to bake cookies in a countertop roaster oven?  I'm looking forward to trying all the modes of the slow cooker / roaster oven.
My first time to use the new unit was to bake banana bread.  I'd been wondering how it would work as an oven, and, well, I had about a dozen overripe bananas.  I used my standard recipe and poured the batter into an 8-by-4-inch Pyrex loaf pan.  It just fit into the rack in the Nesco.



It was a little tricky to get the pan into the preheated cookwell without burning my fingers.  We noticed an odor like the one from the "smoking out" process; it decreased over the baking time, so I suspect that I just hadn't smoked it out long enough.  I also noticed that the outside of the unit gets hot, as my other slow cookers have.

The recipe calls for baking the loaf for 1-1/4 hours; I might have left it in for just a few minutes longer than that.  It was baked perfectly except that the ends were slightly overdone.  I believe that's because they're closer to the walls of the cookwell.  We were very happy with the result, though, and I would use the Nesco to bake quick breads when the weather is too hot to use the oven.

For my next trick, er, test, I made chili.  After I soaked the dry beans overnight, I drained them and transferred them to the cookwell, then added enough water to cover.  I cooked them for a couple of hours before adding the rest of the ingredients (browned ground beef, chopped onion, tomatoes, spices).  I let it cook for a few more hours before dinnertime.  When it was boiling vigorously, I turned the temperature down.  I like that the temperature control is continuous and in "real" temperatures rather than simply High and Low.  I also noticed that the vents in the glass cover allow more liquid to evaporate than most slow cookers do.  This is what allows baking, but it also necessitates some adjustments to slow cooker recipes.  Another feature of the vents in the cover:  the cover doesn't rattle!  If you've ever had a slow cooker with a lid that rattles, you can appreciate this feature as much as I do!

Cleaning the cookwell after making chili was easy.  I quickly washed it by hand (which is more of a reflection on my dishwasher than on the slow cooker), then let the dishwasher finish the job.  It came clean, thanks to the nonstick finish.

I've also used the Nesco to bake meatloaf (in the same Pyrex loaf pan as the banana bread):  it was perfect.  Finally, I used it to make the stuffed-pepper soup that turned out to be not soupy; even after cooking this mixture of rice, meat, tomato sauce, and vegetables, the cookwell cleaned up easily.

Conclusion:  I wish I'd gotten one of these a long time ago!  The Nesco Professional 6 Qt. Slow Cooker / Roaster Oven with Non-Stick Cookwell in Stainless Steel (Model 4816-25-30PR) is easy to use and quick to clean up.  I love the flexibility of a single appliance that can be used as either a slow cooker or a countertop oven.  And my experience with ordering from Cookware.com has been outstanding.

Disclosure:  I received this product from Cookware.com, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  All opinions in this post are my own.

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